Conflict vs. Conversation

Cody Jones | January 29, 2018

Have you ever watched a meeting turn from constructive dialogue to a civil war?

We’ve all been in a discussion at the conference table when suddenly one person gets a little too passionate and raises the tension level in the room. After that, someone else responds with equal intensity, and pretty soon the meeting has fallen into a downward spiral of disagreement.

Some chalk this up to the passion that high-capacity leaders operate with. Others figure that it’s just how meetings work, and you’re better off to keep quiet and go about your business. Some people just believe that they’re right, and if everyone could see it their way, things would change.    

In Joshua 22, there’s a fascinating account of a literal civil war being avoided through conversation. The nation of Israel was separated by the Jordan River, with some tribes on the east side, and others on the west.  The western tribes had heard that the eastern tribes had constructed a huge altar just on the western side of the Jordan, and they assumed it was built to honor a foreign god. Fearing that their countrymen’s actions would bring God’s judgment on the whole nation, they geared up for civil war. But, seemingly at the last minute, they sent a group of men to express their concerns to the other tribes. The eastern tribes were shocked at the accusation, informing the delegation that the altar was actually built to remind future generations that tribes from both sides of the Jordan had the right to worship in the Tabernacle. In the end, a simple conversation prevented a conflict.

From this account, leaders can learn three practical steps to promote conversation instead of conflict:

1) Press Pause

When the Israelites west of the Jordan River were on the brink of igniting civil war, they pressed pause. Instead of going to battle, they called a meeting.

When was the last time, with a conference room civil war on the horizon, that you pressed pause?  When was the last time you felt your tension level rising, but you waited to respond until you had analyzed the situation, as well as your emotions?  

James 1:19 (NLT) instructs us to, “be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” How many conflicts could be prevented if we just pressed pause?


2) Cross the River

When the western tribes came to have a conversation with their fellow citizens, they crossed into their territory. They left their side of the country to experience what was happening somewhere else, and in doing so, they found that both parties had valid concerns.

The eastern tribes were worried that their children would be prevented from worshiping on the west side, and the western tribes were concerned that their fellow citizens might block God’s blessing on the nation by honoring a false god. By entering and understanding each other’s worlds, the two sides prevented disaster.

What if the next time you were involved in a difficult conversation, you made the decision to cross into the other person’s world? What if you sought to understand their concerns and help them understand yours?

In doing this, we often find solutions that benefit both parties, as well as the whole organization. You may even find that you’re concerned about the same things, but from different points of view.


3) Assume the Best

In Joshua 22, the western tribes thought the eastern tribes were up to no good, and the eastern tribes worried that those to the west might eventually do them wrong. The Israelites assumed the worst of each other, and we often do the same.

But what if our starting point in any conversation was, “I bet they’re just trying to accomplish what’s best for our team?” How would that change our mentality towards our coworkers? The person you thought was always shooting down your proposals may actually be trying to help you see all the angles, and the person with the far-fetched ideas might just be trying to spark some innovation.  

When we assume the worst of others, we display the worst of ourselves. When we assume the best of others, we bring out the best in our team.

In your organization, you can spark conflict or conversation. Which will you choose?

Cody Jones is the Creative Arts Pastor at Tree of Life Church in New Braunfels, Texas. He and his wife, Kristy, are passionate about loving the least of these, serving the local church and coaching people to lead well. © Cody Jones-2017

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